I was speaking with someone about the role of awareness in preventing the progression of negativity and found myself using the story of Rumpelstiltskin as an analogy. Since then I’ve been reflecting on the lessons we can extract from this fable about dealing with fear.
Most of you will already know the Brothers Grimm’s story of Rumpelstiltskin. It goes something like this:
A man boasts to the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king locks the girl up in a room full of straw and forces her to do just that. Should she fail, she’d be killed. A creature shows up and does the job for her, in exchange for her necklace. The king puts her into a bigger room with more straw, promising he will marry her if she can do the same magic. The creature appears again and offers to perform the task; the price this time is her firstborn child when she becomes queen. The king marries the girl and they have a child. The creature returns to claim its prize… unless she can guess its name within three days. She sends a guard out to spy on the creature, who is found dancing around a fire, arrogantly singing out its name. When it appears the next day, the queen utters its name, “Rumpelstiltskin”. Shocked to its core, the creature wobbles away and vanishes from the face of the earth.
Sometimes, simply naming our fear when it arises has the power to drive it away.
One of the reasons why our fear has become the level it is, is because we try to blur it in our minds. We don’t want to get a clear picture of it, for fear that it will manifest in reality. So we keep a vague idea about it. We dillute the idea of it, thinking that would keep us safe.
Have you ever been blackmailed, or watch someone being blackmailed? I can imagine that it would be hugely draining on all levels of our being. When someone threatens to do something we fear unless we do something we don’t want to do, it pushes us into a corner – a tight space with little hope of getting out of the situation.
Dealing with fear is the same thing. The power it has over you is the promise of something you dread. When you harbour a fear, you’re in a blackmailing situation with yourself. Your resources are depleted as you try to manage the anxiety you feel. Trying not to think about it is clearly not helping in many cases.
Next time you find yourself struggling with a fear, do what the queen does and call it by its name. Let it be clear, without any dillution or pretense. Naming something you’re afraid of means you put your cards on the table. You show your fear what you know. As long as the name of the creature eludes her, Rumpelstiltskin has all the power. Once she names it, its power starts to dissipate and it goes into a self-destructing mode.
Why does naming your fears or something you resist make it go away? How does it work? How can you utilise this wisdom to help you gain victory over your fear or an undesired pattern?
#1 Cut through the bullshit.
The first thing to acknowledge is when you dillute the idea of something you fear or resist, you create more avenues for power to be drained out of you. In the process of pushing it away, you generate many more self-berating thoughts and actions. Thus, the cost of being vague about something that bothers you may be low self-esteem, compromised health, or damaged relationships.
Allowing the truth of what’s bothering you is a powerful step. When you can understand that what you’ve been doing has not empowered you but taken power away from you, you can go towards where the power-giving direction is. Recognise how draining it is to pretend it is not there.
Tell the truth of what’s really there and feel your energy returning to you. It leaves you with a certain clarity, even if the starkness of it, devoid of bullshit, may feel unsettling right now. That flow of energy you experience in this unsettling space of vulnerability is just that: a flow of energy. As long as you stay in your truth, without reaching out to cover it up again, you will experience a shift – from feeling disempowered to feeling at peace.
As you allow this healing to take place naturally, just by being in your truth after pretending for so long, you’re likely to become aware of ideas that inspire new ways of being that are far from the self which you have identified with what you feared or resisted. Truth can liberate you from the prison of judging yourself for being a certain way, to seeing yourself in a fresh, new light.
#2 Tip the balance of power in your favour.
The girl gives away her power to the creature by not knowing its name. The creature is certain that she will never be able to guess its name, and demonstrated its power by singing its name in a boastful manner. Not knowing our weaknesses has the same effect – it allows our shadow side to take over us.
Something you judge about yourself, as being insufficient, inadequate, lacking, inferior. You do not know what specifically it is… and you end up concluding that the whole of you – i.e. you as a person – is all of that, rather than shining a light on an aspect of you that makes you feel that way.
Honing in on what exactly you are having bad thoughts about yourself can eradicate sweeping judgements that you are flawed as a human being. Just because certain aspects of you are flawed, in your mind, it doesn’t mean the whole picture of you is tainted. But by being unclear about what those aspects are, you leave them dancing around in your psyche, hidden from your awareness, giving you a general sense of unease within yourself. When you can see clearly what you think is flawed about you, name it for what it is, it can no longer demonstrate its power. You feel the balance of power start tipping in your favour.
#3 Stop selling your soul.
Sometimes, events and circumstances that aren’t actually life-threatening trigger a kind of fight-or-flight response in us. This is partly due to the programming we still carry in our DNA from the days when we (our ancestors, past lives) were exposed to real threats to our survival. Or an incident in our past that really was life-threatening and we associate these triggers to that incident. When this type of response is triggered, we tend to reach out for solutions that are quick, immediate, and that delay the feared scenario. Whilst this is logical in real life-threatening situations, when you adopt this as your default coping mechanism in life, you can find yourself drained of life force and vitality. It can destroy your soul.
When you have a fear or resistance that you don’t want to face, you’re constantly selling your soul. Like the girl in the story who starts off by giving away a piece of jewellery in exchange for help in maintaining a lie, the price gets bigger and bigger, until you run out of resources to pawn for the illusion of security. In real life, the short-term quick fix in the forms of addictions and other stressful ways of coping comes at a huge cost.
The story of Rumpelstiltskin contains a life-and-death situation, but your story about how dangerous it is to stop bartering with the devil is likely to be exaggerated. The only death that can come is the death of an aspect of your ego – leaving you one step closer to your authentic self.
#4 Be willing to investigate and listen.
The queen sends her eyes and ears out there to find out the facts. In the same way, when you’re finally willing to see and hear what’s bothering you, you put an end to your guessing game.
Everything we need to know is right here, inside of us. By slowing down and listening intently, we build a bridge to the part of us that can give us the information we need. Take a break from trying to figure it out with your mind and simply notice what is being revealed to you in the silence. Greet any arising information with an open heart and curiosity. Let it speak to you and tell you what it is all about.
Once you know what you’re dealing with, you may sense a certain expansion in the truth that emerges. It is simply a light being illuminated from deep within your consciousness. It is not bad or negative. Just let this light be there.
#5 Boil it down to a word.
There is power in condensing what you’re dealing with into a single word. Sometimes, having too many components to an idea can pull us into confusing directions. The power of naming your fear lies in the simplicity of uttering a single word, even if the word is as long and unusual as Rumpelstiltskin.
For instance, you have connected to this truth in yourself: “I’m scared to death about running this business on my own but too embarrassed to ask for help.” If this is the first time you’ve admitted to feeling this way in such clear terms, great. But you can amp up your power by distilling it further to its core. You might end up with, “I’m scared to be seen as a failure.” Condense it into a single word – e.g. you may end up with Scaredtofail or Seenasfailure.
Use this word the way you would use a weapon to disarm an adversary – recalling the end scene in Rumpelstiltskin when the creature’s power is dissolved upon having its name called out.
#6 Say it with confidence.
I love to imagine how the queen feels when she is waiting for the creature to turn up on the last day. She must be feeling strong inside her, full of confidence that she is already freed from this nightmare. All she has left to do is to deliver the final blow and claim her prize: getting her power back.
In the same way, naming your fear with confidence, clarity and courage will help you to “turn the tables” in a powerful way. Say it as though the words have magical powers, capable of making the power return to you. Feel the power coming back to you.
Naming your fear or something you resist or judge to be bad allows you to detach from its grip. When you practise this on a destructive pattern of behaviour that has become automatic, by naming it before the automatic response gets played out, you start to break away from the loop you’ve been trapped in. That moment of clearly stating what’s what can wake you up and connect you to new paths you might previously never have considered taking. It takes you away from trying to fix the problem from within the problem and not really getting anywhere with it. A door opens before you, inviting you to step through and take the chance to grow, to thrive.